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Does Energy Independence Mean Blowing Up Our Mountains?

July 17, 2009

Many people are concerned about our dependence on foreign sources of energy in the forms of gas, oil, and coal. But what is often overlooked is that in order to transport that energy or build the machines it is used to operate, we also need other resources such as water, wood, and metals. As a result, people are not only in search of domestic sources of energy, but for domestic sources of the needed support resources to tap into those energies, as well.

A key factor in all of this is cost. Some sociologists worry that the downsides of methods used to control the cost of developing or finding these materials might override their benefits. For example, consider such comparatively inexpensive mining techniques as mountain top removal or hydraulic drilling. That’s right—mountain top removal!

Below is a short excerpt from a PBS documentary about mountain top removal. Watch the video and if you like, respond to one of the discussion topics below:

1. People that support mountain top removal argue it is inexpensive compared to traditional mining. It also allows companies to mine in areas that contain smaller amounts of minerals, which would create jobs where traditional mines couldn’t be used. They also argue it is a safer for the workers than shaft mining. Do you think mountain top removal should be allowed? Why or why not?

2. What level of damage do you think this does to the land in the area? How long do you think this damage will last? How widespread is the damage? What other forms of industry would you suggest that local communities pursue in these areas?

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